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View Full Version : The NA Saturn Launch (and what do you make of this quote)



Gryson
06-26-2018, 07:20 PM
I know this might not be new to some of you, but I recently found this quote from Tom Kalinske from 2005 that really puts the launch of the Saturn in NA in new light (at least for me):


We all knew PlayStation was coming so we wanted to pre-empt them. Japan basically ordered us to be on shelf in the Fall, [so] I thought up the surprise launch as a way of generating excitement and PR. However, the downside was not enough software was ready, which was a significant problem, and the surprise benefited some retailers but annoyed others who were either not included or didn't receive a large enough initial allocation of hardware. On top of that, the price was really too high. If we'd had a larger number of units to launch correctly with all retailers, and if we'd had a few more software titles, I think the result would have been significantly better. On the other hand if we'd waited until PlayStation was in the market I think the results would have been even worse.

From Sega Saturn: The Pleasure and the Pain (https://web.archive.org/web/20160325100634/http://www.1up.com/features/pleasure-pain?pager.offset=1)

Two things stick out to me:

Kalinske confirms that he was behind the surprise E3 launch (read Console Wars if you want a 100% contradictory account)
Kalinske thinks that the launch would have gone even worse if it followed the PlayStation (released September 9, 1995)


I know that Kalinske would later make statements that somewhat contradict the 2nd point (for example, that he thought a Oct/Nov 1995 launch or even 1996 launch would have been best), but since this is (as far as I know) his earliest quote on the topic, let's give it some weight.

So my questions are: With the benefit of hindsight, when would have been the best time to launch the Saturn? Do you think this ultimately would have made a difference for Sega?

Black_Tiger
06-26-2018, 07:41 PM
Launching that early was a good thing to do. But they should never have done it half assed and stock should have been readily available to all retailers. The pre-surprise launch campaign in Canada was great.

Silanda
06-26-2018, 07:56 PM
Difficult. The surprise launch backfired, but I'm not sure a later launch would have helped much in isolation. Launching around the same time as the Playstation could have had an initial benefit if they could have mustered more stock, a better selection of launch games (with a couple of exceptions, the PS1 launch titles weren't too impressive), and a slick marketing campaign highlighting that fact. However, the generation wasn't lost at the launch, it was lost over the next two years.

Honestly, short of the Playstation not existing, or the Saturn being a different system, it's difficult to imagine a scenario where Sega could have won that generation.

Yohko16
06-26-2018, 07:57 PM
Once again it mostly comes down to the frigging 32X wasting various ressources (money, development time...) which should have been put in the Saturn instead for:
- a more tweaked, consolized hardware which would have meant easier to develop for and less expensive at the same time.
- more, or at least more polished launch/early titles (Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA...).

It's maddening how Sega litteraly ruined themselves during that era.

Another scenario which could have worked is indeed releasing the Saturn later on BUT only with more solid 3D capabilities and with some softwares which would have shown this and preferably something that most people were awaiting for, you know, a 3D platformer/action game starring a certain blue hedgehog...

Thief
06-26-2018, 08:02 PM
At least that summer off school was much more interesting with Sega Saturn.

Silanda
06-26-2018, 08:08 PM
Another scenario which could have worked is indeed releasing the Saturn later on BUT only with more solid 3D capabilities and with some softwares which would have shown this and preferably something that most people were awaiting for, you know, a 3D platformer/action game starring a certain blue hedgehog...

That whole generation would have been quite different if Sega had gone with the chipset from Silicon Graphics. The Saturn would have released later and would have likely been similar to the N64 (for better or worse), and Nintendo's console would have probably been something else entirely (and maybe later still). Who knows how that would have panned out?

TrekkiesUnite118
06-26-2018, 08:51 PM
Honestly I think a global launch in the fall of 1995 would have been better than what we got. Sure it would be a year after the PS1 in Japan, but 1994 Saturn software really wasn't that amazing to begin with. That extra year could have been used to iron out some issues in the design, beef up VDP1, and just polish up the launch software.

By fall of 1995 with the specs as they were we already had much more impressive software than what we had at either launch. Instead of having a choppy Daytona port compared to Ridge Racer, we'd have Sega Rally compared to it. Instead of a flickering Virtua Fighter compared to Toshinden or Tekken, we'd have stellar ports of Virtua Fighter Remix or even Virtua Fighter 2. That alone would have left a better impression than what we got at launch.

Going a step further, the 32X could have been just dropped and it's games could have been moved to the Saturn or Sega CD/Genesis depending on which system they fit better on.

axel
06-26-2018, 09:51 PM
Some logic... yeah we saw the PSX and it's better than we thought so we're going to cram some more chips into our already complicated console and rush it out the door with no games.

Should have gone back to the drawing board!

stu
06-26-2018, 10:28 PM
I know this might not be new to some of you, but I recently found this quote from Tom Kalinske from 2005 that really puts the launch of the Saturn in NA in new light (at least for me):

From Sega Saturn: The Pleasure and the Pain (https://web.archive.org/web/20160325100634/http://www.1up.com/features/pleasure-pain?pager.offset=1)

Two things stick out to me:

Kalinske confirms that he was behind the surprise E3 launch (read Console Wars if you want a 100% contradictory account)
Kalinske thinks that the launch would have gone even worse if it followed the PlayStation (released September 9, 1995)


I know that Kalinske would later make statements that somewhat contradict the 2nd point (for example, that he thought a Oct/Nov 1995 launch or even 1996 launch would have been best), but since this is (as far as I know) his earliest quote on the topic, let's give it some weight.

So my questions are: With the benefit of hindsight, when would have been the best time to launch the Saturn? Do you think this ultimately would have made a difference for Sega?


I'd recommend quoting the next part of the article on the next page for the proper context:


By this time Tom Kalinske and his team, who had been so successful in making Sega a relevant hardware company in North America, had been pretty much stripped of all power, basically doing what Sega of Japan told them to. By July of 1996, Kalinske had had enough, and resigned his position as President of SoA, taking most of his executive staff with him. In a show of support for Kalinske, Sega founder David Rosen also left the company. Strangely, Hayao Nakayama, the man responsible for almost all of the decisions being made at Sega, also resigned in deference to his old friend, Rosen, though he did remain on the board.

Also he has gone on record since this saying that they also ordered the early launch (I believe I've quoted it in previous discussions)

Gryson
06-26-2018, 11:01 PM
Also he has gone on record since this saying that they also ordered the early launch (I believe I've quoted it in previous discussions)

That's not in dispute. There are numerous quotes from him in newspapers from the late 90s saying that he was ordered to launch earlier than he wanted to. He even says that in the quote in the OP.

But this is, I believe, the first quote from him saying that he chose the 'how' of the launch. Elsewhere, he has stated that Nakayama wanted him to launch in June or, as here, by the Fall. So his surprise launch at E3 may have been even earlier than necessary.

It was interesting to find this quote because there are so many accounts (none from Kalinske) stating that Nakayama personally forced him to get on stage at E3 and say what he said. Console Wars, for example, has an atrocious scene describing exactly that. Here, we finally hear from Kalinske that this was his own PR stunt.

Regardless, I'm more interested in his second point regarding the need to launch before the PlayStation.

gamevet
06-26-2018, 11:02 PM
It was a case of Tom taking the sword for the poor decision. I certainly didn't expect him to start throwing people under the bus.

bultje112
06-27-2018, 03:20 AM
another proof tom kalinske has no knowledge about video games.

they should've waited. in fact they should've waited even longer than the playstation 1. had they released the saturn around november with games like sega rally, virtua cop (soon virtua fighter 2) it would've blown any 3d playstation game away and keep in mind initial playstation sales weren't good either. but sega still had a big name so people would've held out until they saw what the sega saturn could do. on top of that retailers would've kept backing them. nothing but positives.

Team Andromeda
06-27-2018, 04:25 AM
Another example of Tom contradicting himself and they was nothing wrong in going early per say, it was just the month they chose to go and yet more proof how clueless SOA was in the 32Bit age. Why not wait until June or better yet July 95 and launch with the VF Remix, Bug, Astal, Panzer Dragoon, Clockwork Night II, Daytona USA, Pebble Beach, Shinobi. That would be been better and of course without Tom and SOA love of the 32X. The Saturn could have gone in May 1995 and had the likes of Doom, Star Wars, VR Delux; all of which would have looked and run better on the Saturn given the 32X Doom and 32X VR was done by id and CS Team, not like the Saturn versions handle by Rage or TW.


Mind you SOJ were a little clueless too and really should have given SOA/SOE a Sonic CD port for the Saturn with better GFX, full screen 60 fps Bonus sections and full screen much better quality Cinepak FMV to help out for the Western launch

gamevet
06-27-2018, 05:04 PM
Iím pretty sure two people here never read the article, which clearly explained how and why SEGA of America had no Software ready for the early launch, and neither did the 3rd parties. Itís been said before, that SOJ demanded that the Saturn was to launch in the West by June. He met that demand a couple of weeks before the the deadline. Using E3 was his best option, considering the situation those dumbasses in Japan put the West in.

zyrobs
06-27-2018, 05:49 PM
another proof tom kalinske has no knowledge about video games.

Read the context. He was not given any other choice.

profholt82
06-27-2018, 08:50 PM
"299."
~ Steve Race